Quebec government breaks major electoral promise and abandons road lanes in ‘Third Link’ project

By News Staff & The Canadian Press

Quebec Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced on Thursday that the government’s much touted and promised third link project will no longer include lanes for drivers – that the project between Quebec City and Lévis would be exclusively for public transit.

Initially, it was set to include six traffic lanes across the St. Lawrence River, two of which would have been reserved for bus lanes.

Instead, the project will now be exclusively focused on public transit.

The minister justifying the decision she says due to a post-pandemic decrease in road traffic.

“This is a very difficult decision,” she said during the announcement in Quebec City. “This is not what we thought would happen. We didn’t know there was going to be a pandemic when we arrived in 2018. And during the pandemic we didn’t know what kind of changes this would bring in the lives of Quebecers.”

Third Link Quebec Levis

(Courtesy: YouTube/Graph Synergie)

The so-called ‘Third Link’ across the St. Lawrence River, after the Pierre Laporte Bridge and the Quebec Bridge, was a key promise of Premier François Legault during the 2018 and 2022 election campaigns to woo voters in the capital region.

A difficult, but responsible decision

Guilbault said that recent traffic data clearly showed the government that their plan had to change.

“The responsible and lucid decision to make today based upon the data I just gave to you is the one that I am announcing today,” she said.

“There is no need for a new tunnel for cars, but we need to connect Lévis and Quebec City in the centre of the cities, and so we are going to have a tunnel that is dedicated to public transit that’s modern and efficient. That is hopefully going to convince people, once and for all, to give up their cars for public transit.”

Guilbault couldn’t say how much a new tunnel would cost because there were still many issues that needed to be settled, but she said the cost of the previous, larger project was about $10 billion.

As well, the transport minister said she didn’t know what type of public transit, buses or a tramway, would cross the tunnel, adding she hoped the new route would encourage people to reduce their pivate car use.

For many Quebec city-area ministers, like Bernard Drainville and Éric Caire, who were ardent supporters of the project, the decision to abandon the initial plan has been a difficult one.

On the verge of tears, her colleague Bernard Drainville apologized to the people of Lévis and Chaudière-Appalaches.

“I understand their disappointment and their anger. The commitment I made was sincere. I sincerely believed that the bad traffic we had last summer was the new normal,” he said.

Drainville said he had not thought of resigning.

“I still believe that there will be a highway link one day. That’s for sure,” he said.

Third Link Quebec Levis Bernard Drainville

Quebec Education Minister and Levis MNA Bernard Drainville ponders a question after he apologized for the cancellation of the tunnel between Levis and Quebec City, Thursday, April 20, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Minister Éric Caire, who had promised to resign if the project did not materialize, finally intends to stay in office.

“I will go to meet the citizens, and I will explain the decision to them. I trust their judgment […] I can understand that people feel betrayed,” he said.

Third Link Quebec Levis Eric Caire

Quebec Minister Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital Technology Eric Caire speaks to reporters over the cancelled tunnel between Levis and Quebec City, Thursday, April 20, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Better mobility between Quebec City and Lévis remains the goal

Despite breaking a major electoral promise, the CAQ insists it’s the right decision to make, and that the government’s goal to ensure mobility between the two cities remains a priority.

“If we want to attract new students, new people, new people who come from abroad, new business, new events, we have to be attractive – and modern,” said Minister Guilbault.

Members of opposition parties welcomed the news as a pragmatic decision, while questioning premier Legault’s decision to campaign on the third link project promise only months ago.

With files from The Canadian Press

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